We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the right side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here:
We open today’s show with guest author Scott Miller’s profile of Kentucky fiddler Roger Cooper in the Spring 2011 issue of Fiddler magazine. Cooper learned from his old friends and mentors who comprise a list of who’s who of the area’s old time fiddlers. His relationships with Buddy Thomas, Bob Prater, Morris Allen, Jimmy Wheeler, and George Hawkins make him a primary resource for the region’s rich fiddle tradition. “It’s fine to learn to play a tune just like Buddy Thomas or someone else,” says Cooper, “but as you become a better fiddler your personality needs to come out. That’s your individual style. Otherwise you’re just copycattin’.”
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
On April 2, 1931, world famous New York Yankees sluggers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were struck out by a 17 year old female pitcher named Virnett ‘Jackie’ Mitchell in Chattanooga, TN. After a standing ovation that lasted several minutes, Jackie pitched to Tony Lazzeri, who drew a walk. The rookie pitcher had squared off against three future Hall of Famers, striking out two of them. The next day, one newspaper would speculate that “maybe her curves were too much for them.”
Ramps are the first green thing of spring in Appalachia, and certainly the smelliest. Mountain folks have traditionally looked forward to the return of the ramp after a winter of eating mostly dried foods, often believing the ramp to possess the revitalizing power of a spring tonic. If you’re a serious aficionado of allium tricoccum, you know it’s an acquired taste: take garlic and multiply that intensity by about ten. The mere scent of those who have recently eaten a mess of ramps has been known to clear a room.
When we think of coal company towns, often the first things that come to mind are the company store and company built houses. The Sandlick Sportsman’s Club in McDowell County, WV shows a different facet of the company town. Constructed in 1938, the building served as a recreational retreat for company employees of U.S. Coal and Coke Company, then the nation’s leading coal producer.
We’ll wrap things up a look at the commissioning of three Depression era public murals in northern Alabama. One artist, New York based Harwood Steiger, made a trip to Fort Payne and found the postmaster most helpful as he prepared his sketches. The postmaster, in fact, told Steiger that he was pleased to be getting a mural, although he had never heard of one before, and he drove Steiger out into the country to see waterfalls.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers in a 1926 recording of ‘Ragtime Annie.’
So, call your old blue-tick hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.